Just as our soiled based gardens, water gardens need some special attention during the months of autumn. In the fall, the water in the features is almost always clear because of the cooler temperatures and the lush water plants. So enjoy this water quality! If you have a pondless waterfall or small water feature, many of these steps will not apply.
Yellow leaves will increase during this time of year, particularly with your water lilies. It is important to prune them off to keep your pond healthy. In general the water lilies should still be going strong until the first heavy frost. When the weather becomes colder, stop fertilizing your plants. This gives the plants a signal that their growing season is coming to an end. Many folks enjoy tropical water lilies and if so you need to remove these planters from your pond and winter over. I prefer the cold hardy water lily variety to “keep it sustainable” allowing the plants to winter over in their environment and grow hardier each year.
Your fish can still be fed this time of year, but I do recommend a cold water formula food to allow them better digestion. Once your pond water hits 55 degrees, stop feeding the fish. Continuing to feed them could cause health problems or death as their digestive systems are starting to slow down for the winter. I love to see my fish grow and flourish from season to season. Even the smallest of goldfish and koi become treasured pets you want to care for and enjoy next year! We have a young friend who brought us his County Fair goldfish this summer and we want to keep him healthy for the youngster’s future visits!
With the falling leaves, your skimmer nets and baskets will require additional attention. They will need emptying on a regular basis as the leaves will clog the mechanical filtration and starve the pump for water (good way to burn out a pond pump!). Your frequency of emptying will depend upon the number of trees in and around your pond. On our site we need to attend to this daily due to our numerous nearby trees. Use of a long handled pool skimmer net is also helpful to skim leaves off before they reach the skimmer.
Pond netting is highly recommend to manage falling leaves. As pictured above, nets are installed with the first sign of falling leaves. If the leaves do sink to the bottom, try to get as many out as possible to keep your ecosystem balanced. You can leave a few in for frogs and fish to burrow into over the winter. But if you leave too much debris in the pond you will dramatically change the ph and overall chemistry. A brown “tea like” water color will emerge. This is dangerous for the health of your fish. If this does happen, remove the excess debris and add Rapid Clear (as directed for pond size/gallons) and clean out your debris net.
By adding these basic steps in your fall garden maintenance routines you will keep your ecosystem healthy and enjoy an easier spring start up routine with your water garden next season.
Next post….water garden winterization tips!